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Santorum & Romney Go Head to Head in Michigan & Arizona

Posted on the 22 February 2012 by Periscope

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney prepare for battle in ‘must-win’ Michigan and Arizona primaries

Rick Santorum. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/6184432968/

Pretty much every Republican presidential hopeful in the field has experienced a surge at one point during the current contest, before fading back into obscurity. But social conservative Rick Santorum is seeking to surge all the way to the GOP nomination, setting his sights on victory in the Michigan and Arizona primaries. Santorum won shock victories over former frontrunner and closest rival Mitt Romney in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as a “beauty contest” primary in Missouri.

And it looks like the former Pennsylvania senator is in with a fighting chance: a new Associated Press/GfK poll puts Santorum neck-and-neck with Republican Establishment favorite Romney overall, while an NBC poll has the two tied in the make-or-break Michigan primary. Romney was brought up in the state and his father was governor; a loss there would be a serious blow to the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign.

Why so many surges? “Analysts point to several factors: a weak field of candidates; the advent of ‘super political-action committees’, outside groups that can take in unlimited donations to fund advertising in support of a campaign; a Republican Party that is shifting rightward; and new party rules designed to extend the primary race,” wrote Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor. Feldmann pointed out that the anti-establishment Tea Party movement hasn’t yet rallied behind a candidate – but with the once-surging Newt Gingrich fading fast, Santorum could prove the unifying figure.

Santorum nomination would be GOP nightmare. “The issue, for Republicans, is not just that Santorum would lose in November. It’s that he could be a drag on House and Senate candidates as well,” argued Eugene Robinson on a Washington Post blog, suggesting that if Romney does “flame out”, the GOP will start desperately casting around for alternatives – that is, anyone but Santorum to go up against President Obama. The problem is that Santorum’s religious statements – such as suggesting Obama is misinterpreting God’s truth – are “not customary fodder for a presidential campaign”, said Robinson. What’s more, Santorum’s extreme social conservatism puts him at odds with mainstream America.

No savior in sight. The Republican Establishment may start casting round for a late-entry candidate if Romney loses Michigan, but it won’t do the party any good, predicted Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. “There is no one who can satisfy the base of the GOP—a cohort so drunk on ideology and resentment that they cheer electrocutions and boo a soldier—and be elected president of the United States,” said Tomasky. “They can’t see the obvious paradox—that their lust for the White House is making them submit to all the wishes of a fanatical base, which is exactly what will keep them from winning the White House.”

Santorum should rein himself in. In order to mount a serious challenge to Obama, the former Pennsylvania governor needs to demonstrate “the ability to resist the efforts to drag him out of the public questions into the weeds of theological debate”, wrote William McGurn at The Wall Street Journal. According to McGurn, there is a “double standard” in the US media when it comes to Democrat and Republican candidates: when Obama said marriage should be between a man and a woman, there was little comment; when Santorum made the same statement, the press depicted him as extreme.

Santorum would be better off losing. Santorum doesn’t have a chance of beating Obama unless circumstances change radically, said Paul Goldman and Mark J. Rozell at Politico: “History shows Americans are predisposed to remain loyal to their previous presidential choice. This trumps much disappointment, especially if there are decent achievements.” Goldman and Rozell argued that this comes down to a question of timing – Santorum would be better off losing the GOP nomination this time round and coming back in 2016.


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